Razorbacks Gain Crucial Final Qualifiers at NC
BY ANDRES FOCIL
BATON ROUGE, La. – No. 1 ranked Arkansas had a very successful first day at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships as it qualified 11 of its athletes in eight events, including one relay team to the finals. It is in the those finals that the Razorbacks will look to garner top five finishes in order to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas on June 9-12.
The 5,000 meters was notably missing senior All-American Alistair Cragg when he was pulled out of the event with a medical exemption. Cragg still holds the nation’s top time (13:16.98) and will earn an at-large bid to nationals based off his time.
“He has a cramp in his calf, so we got a medical waiver, because there is no way he could have run,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “Hopefully he’ll be all right by nationals, we’ve got two weeks. Alistair is a very tough guy. Other than that, today couldn’t have gone any better. We had a great day and what a way to cap it off with those three 200-meter runners.”
The Razorback sprinters had a very strong showing and stole the show on Friday at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium. The 4×100-meter relay team of senior Michael Thomas, freshman Wallace Spearmon, Jr., junior Tyson Gay and sophomore Omar Brown cruised to an easy victory in the prelims when they turned in a time of 39.86. Their time was fourth overall among 19 teams. They will go on to compete in the finals on Saturday at 5:07 p.m.
In his second race of the night Gay won his heat of the 100-meter dash to qualify to the finals with a time of 10.16 in a tailwind of 3.0. The 200-meter dash was next on the agenda and favorable conditions allowed the Hogs to produce three heat winners with three of the nation’s top new times to move on to the finals. All their performances were personal bests, but because of high wind readings above 2.0 meters per second they can only count on the descending order lists. Spearmon was leading the U.S. with a time of 20.35, but in the prelims he put up a blazing time of 20.25 to improve his standing. Gay was next when he registered a time of 20.27 and Brown clocked a time of 20.36.
In the 1,500 meters three of the four Razorback runners advanced to the finals. In the first heat junior Said Ahmed crossed the line in second with a time of 3:46.55. The second heat was taken out at a slow pace, but senior Chris Mulvaney and freshman Sam Vazquez separated themselves from the rest of the field in the last 100 meters and went 1, 2 with times of 3:51.58 and 3:51.64, respectively. Junior Michael Taylor did not qualify for the finals after he finished 11th in the second heat (3:53.03).
Senior Michael Thomas qualified to the finals of the 110-meter hurdles after he was third in his heat with a time of 13.73. His time was fifth overall, even after his blocks slipped on the first attempted start.
Junior Terry Gatson dominated the final heat of the 400-meter dash and was first with a time of 46.09. His performance was fourth overall and put him in the finals.
Junior James Hatch represented Arkansas well in the 800 meters and captured top honors in his heat with a time of 1:49.95. Going into Saturday’s finals his performance was fourth overall.
In the prelims of the 400-meter hurdles both senior Maurice Bridges and sophomore Brad Dittoe qualified to the finals. In the third heat Dittoe took advantage of LSU’s Bennie Brazell’s false start and held on to cross the line in first with a career-best time of 51.94. Brazell had the region’s best time (48.86) entering the event. Bridges also won his heat after he turned in a time of 50.78.
Freshman Greg Martin started off the day in the high jump, but did not register a height. Coming into the event he was carrying a top mark of 6-10.75 from the SEC Championships.
With only five events scored in the team competition Purdue and Auburn are sharing the lead with 23 points. LSU is third (17) and Kentucky is fourth (15). Ohio State and Southern Mississippi round out the top five with 12 points each.
Arkansas will put itself in prime scoring position on Saturday to defend its regional crown when all the finals for its events will be contested. The javelin will be the first field event at Noon with sophomore Eric Brown representing the Hogs. The first running event is scheduled to begin at 5:07 p.m. with the 4×100-meter relay.
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